Orchid Care: Miltonia & Miltoniopsis

Beautifully patterned, often with pansy-like “waterfall” markings, miltonias/miltoniopsis are quite colorful, ranging from whites, pinks, purples, reds and yellows to almost black. In interbreeding, the miltonias bring the color, miltoniopsis the pansy face.

Most of the 1,000 miltonia hybrids known today actually belong to the genus miltoniopsis, although they are still lumped together under miltonia. miltoniopsis species include those that originate from the cooler-growing, Columbian Andes region, while miltonia species are mostly native to lower and warmer altitudes of Brazil.


TEMPERATURE It is helpful to know whether your orchid belongs to the miltonia versus miltoniopsis species. miltoniopsis species and hybrids need to be grown in cooler temperatures, with nighttime lows of 50–55° F and daytime temperatures under 80º if it is to flower. The warmer growing miltonia prefers no lower than 60° F at night and takes daytime temperatures up to 90° F.

LIGHT Although miltonias prefer more light than miltoniopsis, light should be relatively shaded. The thin leaves of these orchids can be burned in a short period of time by direct sunlight.

WATER miltonia and miltoniopsis prefer to remain evenly moist with perfect drainage. They have a habit of “accordioning” their slender, grassy leaves into crinkled waves when humidity is too low or there is insufficient water. Once accordianed, the leaves will not flatten, but new foliage will come in straight when humidity and watering are corrected. Because they are intolerant of salt buildup, leach every fourth or fifth watering (by drenching heavily 3 times through the pot).

HUMIDITY Ideally, humidity is kept at least 70%. Most greenhouses have adequate humidity. In the home, place the plants on top of moist pebbles in trays.

FERTILIZE If planted in a pre-mixed medium, use half strength 20-20-20 every two weeks; if planted in fir bark culture, use 30-10-10. During overcast weather and winter, reduce to one quarter strength. In early spring, use a 10-30-20 or orchid blossom booster formula.

POTTING All types must have well-drained, loose mixes, such as fir bark or fir bark and tree fern. miltonias do best when mounted. miltoniopsis do well in small pots. All should be repotted after bloom period every year, as they are intolerant of stale conditions. They also do not like excessively large containers, or being divided into individual bulbs. Keep the “pseudobulbs” in groups of 3 or 4.